Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Mouse in the House


There must be some spiritual reason I have yet to understand to explain why the strangest things happen to our family on Shabbat (the Sabbath). One instance I’m referring to is unwelcome intruders from nature. There is no doubt that the fact we live in a ground floor apartment with direct access to grass, trees and bushes facilitates their entry, but why do they always seek our attention on the holiest day of the week? Specifically when we are not allowed to capture or kill bugs or any living creature, they honor us with their presence. I can only attribute it to being a test from HaShem (G-d).  

The knowledge that everything is for a reason became apparent Friday night two weeks ago when our daughter came home long after I had fallen asleep. Like most mothers who have some kind of built-in antennae when it comes to their children, I awoke when she arrived. Had I not gotten up to check on things soon thereafter, no one would have seen the humongous tarantula racing across the bathroom floor. I reflexively let out a shriek which launched my husband and daughter quickly from their beds. Thank G-d, the striped, furry creature crawled onto our washing machine which was less than a meter from the side door. A few strategic sweeps and several tense moments later, the arachnid was back in his own habitat. Instead of complaining that my sleep had been interrupted, I was able to sincerely thank HaShem for the disturbance.

The following week I was looking forward to a rejuvenating, early Shabbat sleep once again, but it was delayed as one of our sons spotted an unusual visitor in the living room. “Mom, there’s a mouse!” was all I needed to hear to get me to spring into action. The tiny grey mammal ran here and there until he scurried down the hall to the boys’ room. Instead of screaming and jumping onto a chair to evade the critter, I tried to get a closer look at him. He was actually quite cute. If rodents didn’t spread disease and leave droppings everywhere, I would have even invited him to stay awhile, but sadly it was the mouse which seemed distressed. He explored every possible exit route and found a dead end at each corner, all the while trying to avoid the ‘giants’ in the room. We wanted him out and he wanted out, but how? Finally, our son brought in a box to use but we were unsuccessful in luring him inside. It wasn’t until he escaped into a small bathroom that we were able to shut the door with the mouse and our son inside. Before long, our son came out proudly holding the box rattling with its live contents. He quickly rushed outside to release the frightened little mouse back into the wild.                   

Since each occurrence in our lives, no matter how seemingly insignificant or minute, has a purpose, I tried to think of what HaShem was trying to teach me with yet another Friday night Shabbat incident. I read that Rav Chaim Kanievsky, may he be blessed, instructed with regards to getting rid of mice, one must be stringent in giving maaser money (tithe – 10% of one’s earnings) to the poor. This was a valuable lesson, but we already got rid of the mouse so it didn’t really apply here. Also, the quandary involved not only a mouse, but all pint-sized creations which enter our home in error. While trying to decipher Divinely sent messages, I try to draw on my intuition but I realize we can never discount anything. Occasionally my perception is crystal clear and at other times, it’s as clear as mud.

In this case, several thoughts came to mind, but one which flashed in my head like a neon sign had significance for others as well. Both the tarantula and the mouse could slip through any teeny opening but the message they brought was larger than life. When they first crossed the threshold between their world and ours, they were filled with fear. Both were out of their element despite the fact that they could have certainly built their homes within ours. Had we left them alone, they may have easily created a comfortable living area, setting up an unobtrusive corner somewhere and live it up so to speak. Over time, there would have been families of both species creating generations of mice and tarantulas under our roof. Soon they would lose sight of where they came from and how they got there. Both should have been burrowing down in their natural dwelling places out in the field but somehow lost their way. For reasons known to G-d alone, they were sent into ‘exile’, to foreign territory just like all of our people who are scattered to the ‘four corners’ of the earth. Baruch HaShem, (thank G-d) humans are on a higher level than the rodents and spiders. Man does not act on instinct alone but through freedom of choice. Man can choose to make his home anywhere he desires, so doesn’t it make sense to live amongst his own people, in the land G-d gave to us?

Yes, it is a difficult decision to leave the comfortable corner we have set up for ourselves in someone else’s house, but it CAN be done. To quote from Sichot HaRan #11 (Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom) “The Rebbe said he had great joy of being worthy to have been in the Land of Israel. He endured many obstacles, doubts, delays and disturbances in order to make his journey to the Land of Israel. Money was also an obstacle. But he overcame everything and finished the job completely—he made it to the Land of Israel!

He said, “I believe—and I know a lot about this subject—.every motion, every thought, everything that one does attempting to do something holy is not wasted. When one breaks through all the obstacles and achieves his holy goal, his every move and all the uncertainties and confusion that he faced when he was still in the throes of doubt and bewilderment—‘Can I do this or not?’—with hurdles facing him at every turn; when one finally overcomes them, those very obstacles, doubts, etc., every last one of them, are all made into exalted and sacred things, marked for good.”  (from Ask A Breslover, by Ozer Bergman)

The first week after we made aliya to Israel, our daughter got terribly sick with what turned out to be a common case of strep throat. A friend told me that everything in the Land is bigger and much more intense; the illnesses, the bugs, the plants, the weather but also the Kedusha (holiness). I found that to be true as I have witnessed extremes in all areas of life since coming ‘Home’.  I have never seen such weird and gigantic insects nor as beautiful and unique birds as I have here. I can also report that nowhere in the world are the miracles as huge, frequent and obvious…. at least to anyone who chooses to see them. One phenomenon that is actually reduced in Israel is fear. With a strengthening of our emuna and a complete reliance on HaShem, Israel becomes the safest place in the world. As Rabbi Lazer Brody says “When you fear One, you fear no one”.  

So don’t be stuck like a mouse in the house. Just as mice and tarantulas don’t belong in our homes, the Jewish people don’t belong in any other land but Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel. There’s no time like the present to cross back over the threshold. Your family is waiting to welcome you home!